coverArthur – American journalist. Martha, a Muslim Serb.
A story about love.
A man's love for his lover.
The woman's love for a dead son & father.
Also about hatred and the ugliness of war drawn upon lines of race and religion.
War is insane. Human beings are irrational.

Reading the book also made me think of how Singapore manages racial sensitivities, through a mixture of education, awareness, social engineering through national policies — and I think it must work. We could’ve have become another version of the Balkans war.

Back cover, there's a review by The Washington Post where part of the review says:

"I suspect I am not alone, even in this enlightened city, in not having understood the wars in the Balkans in the early 1990s. There were too many countries, too many factions, too much history, too many pieces to the puzzle. Now comes journalist John Marks with a brilliant,
brooding novel that presents at least one corner of the Balkan war in human terms that make its tragedy all too clear. He sees, too, in the violence
there a foreshadowing of the larger war that began September 11, 2001…"

This work of fiction actually clarified the conflict in that part of the world for me.

P. 76 to 80, where the main female protagonist, Marta, explains to Aurthur the history of Yugoslavia dating back to the Roman Empire — the origin of
Serbs (muslims), Croats (catholics), Bosnians, Christinity and then introduction of Islam in the region; German invasion in WW2, then Fascism then Communisim, then civil war.

End of the novel includes a chronology of events in the region, and I see familiar names and events. At the end, there's a chronology of significant events from 1914 (assassination of Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand) to 1995 (end of Bosnian War). Summarised here — it's an excellent contextual summary and point of reference of the Balkan conflict:

1914 –  Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated by Bosnian Serb radical, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo (indirectly leading to WWI)

1918 – Founding of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (which will become Yugoslavia) after the collapse of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Also end of WWI (treaty of Versailles officially recognises the new Yugoslav state; Germany heavily penalised for its involvement in the war).

1929 – Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes officially becomes Yugoslavia.

1933 – Germany: Adolf Hitler comes to power.

1939 – Germany invades Poland; start of WWII.

1941 – Yugoslav overthrown (despite signing pact with Germany). Belgrade bombed. Germany invades and occupies Yugoslavia. Birth of (1) Croatian Fascist puppet state which begins to murder Serbs and Jews. Birth of Partisan resistance movement made up of (2) Communists under Josip Broz — or Tito — and (3) Serbian royalist resistance movement. These 3 entities fight in civil war against each other under German occupation.

1944 – Belgrade liberated by Soviet Red Army Yugoslav Partisans under Tito.

1945 – WWII ends. Germany and capital Berlin are occupied by Allied Powers (split between Soviet Union on one side, and Britain, France and USA on the other).

1948 – Tito breaks with Stalin (exercises own brand of Communism in Yugoslavia).

1961 – Berlin Wall constructed and creates two cities: East Berlin and West Berlin.

1980 – Death of Tito.

1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of Soviet Union.

1987 – Rise of Slobodan Milosevic, former Communist who uses inflamed Serbian nationalism to rise to power. He becomes driving engine of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

1989 – Nov 9th: Fall of Berlin Wall. Nov – Dec: Collapse of Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.

1990 – Oct 3rd: Unification of East and West Germany.

1991 – June: Croatia and Slovenia declare their independence from Yugloslavia. The Slovenes fight briefly with Yugoslav army; Milosevic's Serbian government allows Slovenes to leave the union. July: War with Croatia begins. Dec: Germany recognises Slovenia and Croatia as independent states.

1992 – Jan: Cease-fire in Croatia. Mar: Fighting breaks out in Bosnia. Apr: US and EU recognises independence of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. May: Serbs lays siege of Sarajevo. War breaks out in Mostar with Serbs on one side, Bosnian Muslims and Croats on the other. Then the Muslims and Croats go to war in Mostar.

1993 – Nov 9th: Croat gunners destroy the Old Bridge.

1994 – Feb: Muslim-Croat war ends. Then mortar hits Sarajevo market, killing 68 people. Cease-fire in Mostar. Mar: Muslims and Croats agree to federation. Jul: European Administration takes over Mostar.

1995 – Serbs overrun city of Srebrenica (formerly declared a safe haven by UN). Aug: NATO bombards Serb armies. Dec: Dayton Peace Agreement signed; end of Bosnian War.

*My Additional note: Slobodan Milosevic was found guilty in 1999, by UN tribunal, of crimes against humanity in Kosovo & charges of genocide in Bosnia. About a year later, he was extradicted to Neatherlands to stand trial. Then in 2006, after five years being imprisoned while standing trial, he died.

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